The Dress

on January 16, 1998 by Bridget Byrne
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Alex van Warmerdam's convincing depiction of De Smet, a sexual creep whose menace is ultimately more softball than it at first appears, is consistent with the whole tone of his movie. There is a peeping tom mood to this amusing and often surprising tale, which follows the fortunes of a dress from drawing board to ragged demise. The vivid, cheerful, leaf-strewn fabric makes for a garment which suggests uplift and hope, hence its attraction for the women who wear it. But it was created by angry, frustrated men and therein lies its power to tease and taunt and bring forth inner sorrows.

The endless unsatisfactory encounters between men and women are both nasty and funny as van Warmerdam probes below the surface to expose the conflicts and misunderstandings of everyday life. The actors, particularly Ariane Schluter as the young woman who is De Smet's first target, bring sharp individuality to their roles without ever pandering to false quirks or over-coarse sensibilities which could have undermined the intelligent, droll quality of this very modern take on the traditional rondeau.    Starring Henri Garcin, Ariane Schluter, Alex van Warmerdam and Ricky Koole. Written and directed by Alex van Warmerdam. Produced by Alex and Marc van Wamerdam and Ton Schippers. An Attitude Films release. Satirical drama. Dutch-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 103 min.

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